The Church and Rashan Charles

Jasper Hale from the Twilight Saga had the gift of ‘pathokinesis’, meaning that, he had the ability to feel and manipulate the emotions of those around him. I connect with Jasper more than I would like to think, whilst I cannot manipulate the emotions of people around me, I definitely feel it. I tend to mirror other people’s feeling, I rejoice when people around me rejoice and mourn when they do. However, recently, I feel like I’ve been doing a lot more mourning than I should be doing. This is not okay. It’s been really tough to be a black Christian. From hearing about the death of Rashan Charles in police custody, to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.  I have been absolutely devastated by the lack of response from the UK Church to these situations, but even worse, I’ve also felt powerless.

As a Christian, I believe that we shouldn’t feel powerless, we should all feel equipped with power and ready to fill the world with light. We should be counter-cultural, it is what we are called to do. There is one culture that the UK church needs to do more to counter and that is white supremacy. There is no doubt in my mind that the church has been key to the breakdown of some products of white supremacy (i.e slavery), but we should have come far enough to start dismantling the institution itself. I’ve probably lost you by now and that is understandable. White supremacy probably evokes images of the KKK in your mind or even Dylan Roof. The Church does well on denouncing these overt forms of white supremacy, but we need to talk more about the hidden result of this.

Police brutality is exactly what we need to talk about. It’s a very well hidden consequence, so well hidden that you would never know that it disproportionately impacts Black, Asian and minority Ethnic (BAME) community. A few weeks ago, we learned Rashan Charles, Rashan once unknown became the very reason for the riot in Dalston. Rashan was a twenty year old black man from Hackney. Rashan was killed by a police officer after he was seen swallowing an object. Automatically, mainstream media, jumped to vilify Rashan, assuming that the object was drugs and praised the officer for a job well done. Social media, a saving grace since its inception, provided an alternative narrative, a truer image in the midst of falseness. Before it was proven that Rashan didn’t swallow drugs, people online defended Rashan’s humanity, that no matter what he swallowed, he should still be alive and there would have been a higher chance at that if he were white.

Rashan’s case tore the plaster off a sore wound, the community was still reeling from the case of Edson Da Costa, a young black man who died at the hands of the police in Newham. I truly believe that the Church has part to play in healing this wound. The UK church needs to address police brutality, and do it from the pulpit. Black people are dying and the church is silent, we are more inclined to talk more about issues in the US and forget about the insidious racism that exists in the UK. When I heard about Rashan and Edson, I mourned like never before. It hurt especially because Rashan lived near me, I work with boys that look like him. Your church youth group has boys that look like Rashan, what if this happened to one of them?

The voice of the UK church is important in situations like this. Our church needs to grow in compassion, this requires actively listening to the voice of the community and responding to their need. This is what Christ calls us to do. Pastors, stand up on the pulpit and declare our lives matter to you and to our heavenly Father.

In a broken community, the church is needed to practice reconciliation. This is a difficult road, but it requires all of us as the body of Christ.

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